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Technology and Health News > Thursday, December-04-2008

The friction slips away

A highly resistant and self lubricating material has been discovered, thanks to the formation of an oxide surface that captures the water vapor

Hard as diamond and slippery as a sheet of ice. The secret of the extraordinary characteristics of Bam, a special alloy-ceramics produced by blending a mix of boron, aluminum and magnesium (AlMgB14) with titanium boride (TiB2), was unveiled by researchers of Ames Laboratory, in Iowa (Usa ), who had accidentally discovered it a decade ago.

In 1999, researchers tried to obtain a substance capable of generating electricity if overheated, when, unexpectedly, found in the hands a league owned by the exceptional and seemingly inexplicable. The Bam is tough, despite possessing a complex structure, asymmetrical and not compact. Moreover, says Alan Russel of Iowa University, it is inherently slippery. One characteristic that, according to researchers, could be due to the formation on the surface of boron oxide, which can attract water molecules present in the air.

A thin layer of Bam could, even more than Teflon, increase efficiency and decrease the wear of mechanical devices. For example, in heating and aircraft propellers. If applied on an industrial scale, according to the researchers, could save 330 billion kilojoules per day, amounting to some 179 million dollars annually.

The Ames Laboratory has received funds for a total of three million dollars, to optimize the characteristics of the material and turn it into an "eternal lubricant."

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